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date: 23 October 2019

Andlau, abbey churchlocked

  • Robert Will

Extract

Former Benedictine convent of nuns, dedicated to St Saviour, in Alsace, France. Founded in the 9th century, it was suppressed at the Revolution in 1789. The west tower and the nave with tribunes were rebuilt in the 17th century, but the crypt and western block survive and contain important Romanesque remains. The sculptural decoration, executed in sandstone from the Vosges, is concentrated on the façade block.

The finest work is found on the portal, which is abundantly decorated with low-relief sculpture. The door-frame belongs to the 11th-century church, but the sculptures are contemporary with the construction of the westwork in 1140. Their iconography is linked to the theme of paradise, a term used in medieval times to denote both the parvis in front of a church and the entrance porch. Standing out in the centre of the tympanum, Christ confers a key on St Peter and a book on St Paul. The scene takes place in a celestial garden, reminiscent of Early Christian decorative backgrounds, but here the trees are emphasized and the traditional scheme is combined with other allegorical subjects: the climbing of a heavenly tree and bird-hunting. On the lintel is the story of Adam and Eve, from the Creation of Eve to the Expulsion. The Lamentation of Adam and Eve, represented on the extreme right, is exceptional in the region and is derived from Byzantine iconography. Each of the pilasters flanking the jambs bears five superimposed niches, sheltering Abbey benefactors and their spouses, designated by name. The lowest niches are supported by atlas figures. Over the porch arch are three groups in high relief: the keystone bears Christ treading a dragon under his feet, flanked by Samson opening the lion’s mouth (right) and David victorious over Goliath (left)....

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